By Stefanie Jackson – Virginia has had less than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases per day in the last two weeks, and the COVID-19 test positivity rate is now 4.4%, Gov. Ralph Northam said at a May 6 press briefing.
COVID-19-related hospitalizations are down to 847 statewide, and there has been a “dramatic drop” in COVID-19-related deaths.
“The vaccines are working,” Northam said.
Nearly 46% of Virginians have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and one in three are fully vaccinated.
More than half of Virginians age 65 or older are fully vaccinated, as are about two-thirds of school personnel and inmates in correctional facilities.
At least 60% of all Virginians eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine – everyone age 16 and above – has received at least one dose.
“These are all great numbers,” Northam said.
Virginia has vaccinated about 63,000 16- and 17-year-olds to date, and the federal government will approve the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 and up “perhaps as early as next week,” he said.
More than 60% of parents who answered a Virginia Commonwealth University survey said they will get their adolescent and younger children vaccinated.
“The bottom line is: We want everyone who can get vaccinated to get vaccinated,” Northam said.
Even though he is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, he is not considering mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for children in school when the vaccine has been approved for those age groups, he said.
Northam later added he expects the COVID-19 vaccines could be approved for children as young as six months old by September.
The COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, and many vaccination clinics and pharmacies are now welcoming walk-ins. Virginia met its goal this week to administer 300,000 shots.
To find a vaccination site, one may visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or text his or her ZIP code to GET-VAX.
Northam said he is confident that Virginia will do its part to achieve President Joe Biden’s goal is for 70% of Americans to get at least a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by July 4.
More vaccinated Virginians means fewer statewide restrictions.
Starting May 15, an indoor gathering may have up to 100 people and an outdoor gathering may have up to 250 people.
An indoor entertainment venue may operate at 50% capacity or up to 1,000 people, and an outdoor venue may operate at 50% capacity with no cap.
Restaurants may return to selling alcohol past midnight, and dining rooms can stay open later.
By June 15, all COVID-19 restrictions – except mask requirements – should be lifted if vaccinations continue rising and COVID-19 cases continue falling.
Northam said he is following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC regarding face masks.
Chief of Staff Clark Mercer noted that Virginia’s state of emergency is set to expire June 30, and without a state of emergency, Virginians cannot legally wear masks voluntarily in public.
The governor may renew the state of emergency if he deems necessary, but he said he is “absolutely” considering allowing it to lapse.
Northam urged everyone to get a COVID-19 shot, and “if you’re on the fence, talk to your doctor. The vaccine is free, it’s easy, and it could save your life.
“It’s the best way for us all to get back to doing the things that we love to do.”
A reporter asked if some people who are hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine are “impossible to reach.”
Northam answered, “I don’t think anybody’s impossible. We just, I think, continue to encourage folks and meet them where they are, listen to their concerns, and try to … discuss those concerns and work through it.”